Friday, 2 August 2013

The Great Escape.

I'm currently sat enjoying the chilled Penang vibes on a barmy afternoon. It's about one month since I left the Big Smoke and cruised down here on a motorbike.

I moved to Bangkok on 14/7/12 and left almost exactly a year later on 10/7/13. I have to admit that Bangkok was not my cup of tea. However, before I left I did some interesting things with the school I worked for. Look at all that concrete behind me!

Enjoying the food in the Queen Vic on Sukhumvit Soi 23. Matt is just about to smash his first pastie! Good lad. This lad is one of the two things I miss about Bangkok. The other being Som's massage.
Here are the twelve monthly rent receipts for the dump I lived in. It cost me £980 to live in here for one year at today's exchange rate.   
This baldy fella's name is Chris. He hails from Manchester and is afflicted with that dreadful Mancunian nasal accent (think Liam Gallagher). He also thinks Man U are great - poor lad. He was 'head-hunted' to replace me as the maths teacher at SPIP. I wish him the best of luck. This is his rooftop pool on the banks of the minging Saen Saeb Canal.
A Japanese restaurant with an Easter Island head outside? I have no idea how these things are connected? Another Bangkok mystery.
Thai Culture. At the end of term the year 8 kids went on a trip to a Thai cultural center about 40km (three hours) west of the city. Here's some lasses trying to weave a fish from strips of palm leaves.
Little Gamm managed to finish hers and what a fine piece it is.
The lads making floral things. Look at their concentration. If only they'd applied the same diligence to their maths classes.
Monty's very proud of his flowers on a stick. This little lad was a pain in the arse during class but now I've left, I know I'll miss him along with many of the other kids. I've added a few of them to facebook so that I can keep in touch. 
Can someone please give me some money for my sick buffalo? Apparently, Thai birds have given up on this yarn to extort cash preferring the more lucrative 'my-mother-has-cancer' ruse. Perhaps Farangs are wising up or perhaps the Euro economic crisis is  beginning to bite? I'm not sure but Thai birds are becoming ever more creative in their cash extraction techniques.
Splodging (that's a good Geordie word) in his rice paddy. Three crops a year he reckons they can harvest.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff. Look at the terrorist watching me. Farmers here like to wear balaclavas with only their eyes visible. This still produces a wry smile when I see them. I just can't get those 1980's IRA lads out of my mind.
I finally saw my first elephant show after almost 5 years in Thailand. I still haven't ridden one but at least I've seen a show. It's amazing what these massive animals can be trained to do!
Crossing the Chao Phraya via the Rama 8 bridge on return to Bangkok. Invariably we were stuck in traffic. Since we have very rich kids we get a police escort anywhere we go. You can see the cops just in front of us with their lights flashing.
Disney World. Another school trip took us to Siam Park or Thailand's Alton Towers. This place was excellent. The Thai writing next to me boasts that they have the world's biggest wave pool - and it was huge!
It was a Thursday morning and we were the first there! 
There were some amazing roller-coasters etc. However, I was relieved to see that they were all German-built. 
This ride was mental as you can see from my windswept hair. I think I was still shaking in this shot. 
Then it was off to the connected water park. I forgot my trunks so I rented these given me the appearance of a 1970's West German Olympic swimmer. I asked for an even smaller pair but these, unfortunately, were the smallest they had. The slides here were excellent and they gave me the chance to work on my tan which is coming along nicely after 7 years in the tropics.
Leaving Bangers. Friday 5th July 2013 was my last day at SPIP. In the afternoon I had to represent our school at a Bangkok Career Expo in the Queen Sirikit National Exhibition Center. Like any NEC anywhere this place was bewilderingly large and I got lost looking for our school's stall. 
The following day I dumped all my work clothes. Four bags worth. This felt AWESOME.  
I then had a farewell drink in my local bar. From the left is Rob (owner), Peter (an old Asian hand), myself and Yui (Rob's missus). This place provided some welcome social relief in an otherwise soulless big-city-existence.
And then the big off. Everything I own on the back of the bike. I have even less now as I've ditched stuff along the way. Xu Chunli took this photo. She was visiting Bangers from Singapore and I had the chance to hang out with her for my last few hours before leaving the big smoke. 
Out. Bangkok would not let me leave easily. It took a tortuous 2hrs to escape the urban jungle before I was free. I stayed in Bang Sapan in Prachuapkirikan province for the night. I was pleased to see cows and trees outside of my room! Paradise.
Further on I stopped for a coffee with Bugs Bunny. I was headed to Surat Thani airport where I would meet Swedish Eric and stay with him and his family for two days in Surat town.
A large selection of knives at a garage toilet just encase you fancy a murder spree. The bloke pointed out the ones that were for farming. I asked him about the others and he shrugged his shoulders.
After two nights in Surat Thani with Eric. It was on to Russel's in Don Sak and his new bar. Look how beautiful this place looks. Unfortunately, this bar has also been the source of some domestic hostility so not all's perfect in paradise. The ride here from Surat was sublime. Big, smooth empty roads allowing me to reach 160km/h again. Thrilling. Incredible scenery too. I was loving being away from Bangers!
Russel's mate Shane showing off his new 85,000bt boat engine. This is the same lad who rode his bike into the Samui ferry and is lucky to be alive. He drove from Don Sak to Phuket to pick this beauty up. He has promised me some nautical adventures when I return to Don Sak. Can't wait!
Russel's was followed by a trip down to Nakorn Si Tammarat to see my old Trang-mate Stefan. We enjoyed a tea in his detached house on the Rajapat University campus. Surrounded by dense jungle I enjoyed listening to the noises as I tried to sleep at night. I love the way Stefan is clutching his balls. The very same balls that facilitated the birth of Lizzy his lovely three year old daughter. I hadn't seen her since she was born so the change was immense from my perspective! I then rode back to Don Sak so that I could ride the arrow straight rode from Surat Thani to Krabi in order to meet some old pals in Ao Nang.

Ao Nang. I spent 4 nights in beautiful Ao Nang with Mike, Eric, Russel and Stefan. Here we are at crazy Mr Cock's (front) street bar. Quality night. The guy with the hat is the bloke from the Hangover movies. Jing jing!
Trang. After Ao Nang was a trip down to my original Thai footfall. Old Richard, Mike and Eric enjoying the seafood at Pak Meng. Mmmmmm.
On a night out with Irish Tom I was pleased to bump into Suchat again (playing guitar). His own bar has closed but he was happy to pick up the strings and do an acoustic version of Rhinestone Cowboy with me. Look how impressed the folk in the background are!
Mike borrowed an alcoholic Frenchman's chopper and joined me on a 150km ride which took in jungle waterfalls, monkey islands and tropical beaches.
What's the best way to spend your last day in Trang? That's right, watching shitting gibbons. The shite would follow gravity's course and start a fish feeding frenzy in the lake below.
Here's Old Richard in his matt black car. He painted it himself hoping to achieve a 'stealth-knight-rider' look. He reckons this vehicle absorbs sound and radio waves rendering him invisible to Thailand's law enforcement agencies. Crackers man! 
I'd never been to Pak Meng's pier before! Another dream come true! One of the things I've noticed been back in Trang is that all the kids have surged. My friends' sons and daughters are growing up fast. It afforded me the opportunity to say "I remember you when you were this big." Another dream come true.
Dannoc. I rode from Trang to Dannoc on the Thai/Malay border for my last night in Thailand before my visa expired on 31st July. Dannoc primarily serves as a dumping station where Chinese and Indian Malays can come and be serviced by minging Thai prostitutes. There are NO westerners here as some rude Thai whores pointed out (not realising I understood everything they said). 
Malaysia. I was very worried about being a foreigner and taking a Thai registered bike into Malaysia. However, I needn't have been. All you need is an English translation of the green (ownership) book. This costs 25bt at the vehicle tax office. You stamp your passport out of Thailand and into Malaysia (no bike stuff yet).

Once in Malaysia, you go to one of the many insurance shacks. You give them your translated letter and they give you an insurance quote. I shopped around a little and ended up with 3 months of insurance for 90RM = 900bt. I then paid another 10RM for a black number sticker that I stuck to the front of the bike. I then took the new Malay insurance papers to a transport police office where they issued me a 3 month permit (free) to ride in Malaysia. 1000bt. Job done. Easy!

I rode on (map-less) to the Butterworth-Georgetown ferry. Here I filled up with petrol for 19bt/litre. In Thailand it's 40bt/litre. Very impressed with Malay petrol prices. Are these the cheapest in the world? Additionally the Malay highways are vastly superior to their Thai cousins. Another thing that generates a few looks is a white dude riding a Thai registered bike. Both things are unusual here so I appear to draw extra attention.
The view of Penang from the ferry.
I met American Alex (formerly of Trang) on my first night here at a minging Chinese bar. We used to call this the Abracadabra Bar in times of old but I can see, through sober eyes, that Antarabangsa looks nowt like Abracadabra! This was shortly after some superb Indian food at Kapitan's Restoran down Chulia Street. I'm loving the food here man!
My second day involved a road trip around the Island. This is Teluk Bahang's reservoir.
Does exactly what it says on the tin.
Air and Titis? What is all this about? At least everyone can read these signs unlike in Thailand and China. 
Into the land of Mosques and Arabic writing.
To me these signs look strange with their blueness. Roundabouts are an indication that the Brits were once here as one never sees them across the border.
Looking west towards the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Above Georgetown to another dam.
Looking from the dam wall towards the city. I decided to do the 2.8km walk around the lake even though I ended up drenched in sweat.
On the way back down the mountain I passed Snake Temple.

Since leaving Bangkok I have racked up about 2000 hugely enjoyable kilometers. I've been retired 4 weeks and I'm loving every minute. I plan to stay in Malaysia for the next 90 days and then return to Thailand on a 3 month tourist visa. After that? No idea. However, I'm loving this sense of freedom.

Despite all this free time I have struggled to get online. I must admit it's been good to escape facebook and emails but it means that so much has happened I've had to gloss over it all otherwise this entry would have gone on forever. You can only cover so much. Anyway, I'm off for a tea tarek and an Indian. Escape those work cubicles people. There's a big world out here waiting for you!

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